This month our chosen object from Florence Nightingale Museum’s collections store is is an army spirit stove.
This stove was made in London by A. Barrett & Sons. Thanks to the address stamp on the lid of the leather case, we can date the stove fairly accurately to circa 1878-1910; as A. Barrett & Sons only traded at 63-64 Piccadilly between those years.
It is likely that the stove belonged to an army officer and would have been used to boil water for drinking, and possibly to cook small quantities of food. It’s impossible to state for definite what military campaign this spirit stove was used in; however the dates would fit the two Boer Wars, which were fought between 1880-1881 and then 1899-1902, by the British Empire and the Dutch in South Africa.
While army officers may have been equipped with individual spirit stoves for personal use, by and large the British Army was still reliant on the type of field stove designed by French celebrity chef Alexis Soyer during the Crimean War. Indeed the ‘Soyer stove’ remained in use up until the Second World War, and there was not a single organisation responsible for the feeding of troops until the foundation of the Army Catering Corps in 1941.